Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Global Cyber Lynch Mob

In a recent article in the Malaysian daily newspaper The Star, it reports the backlash against a teacher who tries to justify her actions of running out of a shaking building during the Sichuan Earthquake before helping her students. The article outlines that this teacher's priority is to her daughter and not to the students she was employed to teach. The article also mentions that her justification was that “chivalry” was not in her job description.

This incident was circulated in various news articles but this is the first one that I have read that mentions that her condemnation was by “bloggers”. The article states “Despite a massive outpouring of charity in the wake of the quake, Chinese bloggers have been quick to round on those deemed unsympathetic.”

The article goes on the comment on Sharon Stone's “Karma” comment and somehow (by using this example) leaves the feeling that the backlash is justified. The problem is that by using Sharon Stone as a comparison is probably representing the power of public opinion poorly.

To the list of people who have been criticized in the digital press are not just ill informed celebrities mouthing off to the media but also include those who did not donate enough, such as the Chairman of Vanke Group and Yao Ming. Both of these prominent figures donated money to the relief efforts but their contributions were deemed inadequate by the populous.

This smells a little too much like mob mentality. At the risk of sounding like an authoritarian sympathizer, is it dangerous for us to have such an influential voice? In the case of “Running Fan”, her fault was not that she decided not to be a hero but she decided to digitally justify her actions. If put into the same situation, the first instinct for many of us would be to first save our own skin before risking it on someone else's children. She subsequently not only lost her job but it is highly likely that she will never be employed by any school in China again. She has essentially committed professional suicide by standing on her digital soap box to claim her innocence. By exposing herself to the cyber lynch mob she not only gave up her obscurity but offered herself as a sacrifice when so many grieving parents were looking for a scape goat.

The court of public opinion is a dangerous animal that is difficult to control and sometimes the only way to avoid becoming a casualty is by lying silently in the bushes. Yao Ming is no longer in the spot light with no real affect on his career. Vanke has been pressured into providing aid in the Sichuan reconstruction efforts to save it's stock value, and of course it will be a cold day in hell before you see a Sharon Stone movie in China, but who will the mob turn on next. Will it be me for writing this article? Will it be you? China quake-fleeing teacher forces change in ethics


Rhys said...

hello dedlog
It is I rhys
thankyou for your kind comments
like your blog
one small thing - runner fan was a man i believe.
i do have a blog but it's disgustingly badly maintained and as such i will not release its name till anyone till its up to scratch.

Dedric said...

Hi Rhys,
Thanks for visiting. The articles I was reading on Runner Fan were a little unclear so I tossed a coin on gender. Little did I know that someone like you would actually read the damn thing.

Shoulda wrote this in Chinglish and I could have dispensed with gender altogether.

Anyway thanks for pointing that out and I look forward to your stuff when you decide to release it.